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Marriage – Monasticism Who is a householder? He is a married man, living in society, He is always associated with a family, generally comprising a wife, a few kids and his relatives by birth and marriage. Who is a monk? He is an all-renouncer. He generally considers himself as living outside the society. He has totally renounced all desires for mental & physical enjoyments & experiences of all kinds. He may however belong to a community of monks. He may certainly entertain strong desires for the enjoyment & experience of the spiritual realm. A householder has a slew of ideals which he strives to achieve in his lifetime. With this aim in view, he binds himself to certain principles, all of which aim at establishing an exalted social order as well as lead to his own inner development. ‘Realising the Absolute Truth in this very lifetime, through intense dispassion towards this world’ is the only ideal for a monk. A householder’s ideals are grand in their scope. A monk’s ideal is very, very high, almost out of reach of the multitudes. What are their respective contributions to society? Of the innumerable contributions a householder makes to society, his greatest achievement would be to contribute a good monk to society. A monk is a pillar of strength, ironically to the very society which he renounced, since his life is a validation of his faith in his own inner divinity. He therefore serves as a beacon of light to all others in society, cementing their faith in an ideal that is not of this world. Society needs direction. A monk alone can provide that much-needed direction. Society needs stability. A monk alone can sustain the faith of people in a spiritual ideal and thereby provide much-needed stability. In order to be a good householder, one needs to be trained in the hands of elders of the society. In order to be a good monk, one needs to have performed systematic spiritual sadhana. A monk who is the repository of all great human qualities, a monk who is Goodnesspersonified, such a monk is indeed the corner-stone of an ideal human society. A monk who has shaped his own spiritual personality by assiduous sadhana, a monk who has forged his own spiritual personality in the fire of intense austerities, a monk whose intense dispassion has opened his inner spiritual vision, a monk who is the fount of divine wisdom, a monk who is a Self-realised, super-conscious soul – such a monk is the very acme of human evolution! ---------------------------
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Child-Marriage – Child-Monasticism The educated, modern society has now come to realise that Child-Marriage is a great social evil. Marriage is a very pure institution. It calls as much for a union of mind and heart, as it does for physical co-habitation. Mental compatibility is as important as, if not more than, conjugal consummation in a marriage. So, in order to maintain the sanctity of this grand institution of marriage, a great deal of physical and mental maturity is called for in both the bride and the groom. Child-Marriage, on the other hand, is a great folly. It starts as child’s play. We say ‘child’s play’ because, when the actual marriage ceremony takes place, both the bride & the groom consider it as a game to be engaged in! That is the level of maturity both possess. Marriage is but a lively game for them. Such a marriage then enters a dangerous phase as soon as the bride & groom enter adolescence. More often than not, both of them realize that they have no compatibility whatsoever, on any conceivable level. Very soon, ennui sets in and the marriage is doomed. The result is - unhappy homes; broken families; infidelity between spouses; birth of weak children owing to the physical immaturity of the teen-aged parents. Child-Marriage is therefore a classic example of making a complete travesty of a most sublime ideal! So also with Child-Monasticism! Is monasticism a joke?! Does dispassion arise in a person just like that! Can it ever be forced upon a person? Can anyone and everyone muster the strength needed to withstand the powerful surges of lust that follow in the wake of adolescence? Looking at a child, is it possible to ever predict that later on when that child attains the full bloom of youth, it will be able to completely control lust in thought, word and deed? Therefore one has to mercilessly introspect and verify for oneself, whether one is really capable of completely rising above the allurements of the world-bewitching Mammon. Therefore one has to mercilessly introspect and verify for oneself whether one’s mind is truly ripe for the Grand Renunciation. True, one in a million may be a born-renunciate like Shukadeva. But if exceptions are made the rule, and if Child-Monasticism is made the norm, it will be suicidal for monasticism in particular and will erode the value-system of society in general. Even when a mature person takes a well-informed decision to lead a monastic life, a couple of falls from the ideal do occur. We see this happening now and then. Is it not then the very height of folly to force an immature, young child to take up the unbearable burden of the highest known ideal of monasticism?! But then, we see a peculiar habit among the Abbots of many large monasteries, especially in Hindu & Buddhist monasteries. What is that? In their anxiety to anoint a suitable successor to their incredibly large spiritual ministries, they themselves choose a very small child, some even as young as 8 or 10 years old, allow that child to live with them, personally teach them Sanskrit or Pali and Indian Logic and the holy scriptures, and train them gradually to bear the cross of managing their huge religious hegemonies. In many orthodox monasteries in India, we see this peculiar habit even now. We have to admit that to a large extent, this system works alright. But it is not uncommon to see this system fail, crumble and collapse, ever so often. There is however a better alternative to this flawed system, which is worth trying. Let the Abbot select a batch of small kids, instead of choosing just one single child as his protégé and heir-apparent. Let this entire batch of children live with the Abbot in his monastery under his care as novitiates. Let the Page 2 of 8
Abbot train them all in the glory of monastic life. When they attain sufficient psychological maturity, let one of them choose to lead the monastic life out of his own will. We believe this process will prevent lot of mischief from occurring. Well, it has to be acknowledged that there are some very extraordinary souls who can look into the very soul of people, as it were. People are open books to those blessed ones. Such Great Souls can discern, by a mere look, with uncanny accuracy whether one is truly fit for monastic life or not. Such persons can however choose even children, since they clearly see that they will be good monks later on. If such blessed souls choose children and invest them with Sannyasa, there should be no harm. But, such realised souls, with the divine gift of inner vision, are indeed very rare. Again, looking at the immense wealth, assets and prestige associated with the monasteries, there are some devotees who voluntarily give one of their sons, even when they are small boys. There are even cases where the parents force the young kids to stay in the monasteries! What is the idea? They do this with the aim that in due course of time, that son will take up monastic life, and then one day will rise to be the Abbot of the huge monastery! Such cases too are not uncommon. Enlightened monks will have to decide as to how right these practises are and take suitable steps to address them. -------------------------------------
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Renunciation of family life – Renunciation of monasticism. Taking up the holy vows of monastic life, after formally renouncing the world, is an ageold practise. There are, however, some instances, where some people, ironically, renounce their monastic vows and take up married life! When true dispassion arises in the heart, people renounce the world, and all its related affairs, and take up the holy vows of monastic life. In the course of monastic life, when worldly tendencies and impressions of innumerable past lives rise up with incredible force, some monks renounce monastic life and get married again! When people take to monastic life, afraid of facing the innumerable challenges of a married life, we call it ‘Escapism’. On the other hand, there are many fortunate souls, who, at a very tender age, are able to clearly see the insubstantiality of this world. Such persons naturally prepare themselves to formally renounce the world and all its crooked, diabolical and hypocritical ways. They however make all necessary arrangements for the sustenance of their dependants and then take up to monastic life. Such blessed souls, we call ‘Seekers of Truth’. When people cut-off all their ties with this world and take up monastic vows, they might be angering some of their friends and relatives. But, when a monk, who is worshipped by society as a holy-man, gets married, everyone feels lost. Both the monastic community as well as the entire society despise him. More importantly, faith in Religion itself gets eroded. But, we feel that there is a need for people to compose themselves, reflect on the exigencies of the situation and sympathise with such a fallen monk. Onto the unformed shoulders of a small child was placed an unbearably huge burden of a massive boulder! Now, that boulder slipped and fell. Can we really blame the child? Alright, we agree that the child has now grown up into a man; even so, can we blame him for this slip? He found it impossible to check the on-rush of natural instincts and decided to give his natural urges a legal outlet. Should we blame him for this decision of his? In this way, kind hearted people will have to sympathise with such a monk who changes the course of his life due to certain inherent flaws in the very system that forced him to be a monk. Moreover, there is another important aspect to this whole affair of a monk’s fall from his ideal. The saffron robe worn by a monk is the universal symbol of purity. A hypocrite could have worn the saffron robe and have secretly enjoyed all sensual things without anyone discovering his escapades! This monk, whom we label as a fallen monk, atleast didn’t do such a heinous act! He openly renounced the monastic life, left the monastery and got married. Which option is better and more laudable? Besides, a monk who renounces his monastic calling and gets married, due to various unavoidable circumstances is any day better, in our opinion, to an idiot who converts himself into another Religion, leaving his own Religion, and struggles to adjust himself into his new cultural environment!
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Let us always remember the inspired words of Jesus Christ’s disciple, St. Paul: ‘It is better to marry than to burn’. ------------------------------------------
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Why this fall? People, who attempt to scale the Mt. Everest, sometimes slip and fall. Instead of touching the summit, they fall down headlong, kiss the ground lying a few thousand meters below, and get pulverised. There may be many reasons for their slipping during the steep ascent. But the only reason for their getting pulverised is that they fell from such a great height! Sannyasa too is like the Mt. Everest. It is a very high ideal. Many many safety measures are necessary in order to reach the summit of this incredibly high ideal. Eternal vigilance is essential to avoid a slip during the ascent of this incredible high peak. How can we be eternally vigilant if we do not have the greatest clarity of the ideal? It is most essential to keep the company of senior, experienced monks and learn from them the nuances of this arduous path. Only a mountaineer who has successfully scaled the Mt. Everest can really teach another aspiring mountaineer. Similarly, isn’t it obvious that only an established monk can teach an aspiring monk? For the sole reason of achieving complete and total dispassion does a monk leave his home, family and friends. But has he left behind his mental tendencies? Is he capable of leaving behind his mental impressions? Mind is a repository of impressions of innumerable past lives! When a person renounces the world and gets ready for Yoga [Identification with his own divine nature], all those past impressions surge upwards and throw the monk off his balance! When this phenomenon occurs, if the monk has not trained himself to effectively reject those impulses, and raise himself above the surging waves, by using his power of discernment, it is certain that he will get caught in the elaborate sensual net spun by those impressions. It is in this way that a monk experiences a fall from his ideal. Therefore, o monk, beware! Be on guard! Be alert! A monk may be an expert in all the important scriptures. He may be hailed as an invincible scholar, whose arguments cannot be countered by anyone. He may be honoured as a great philosophical luminary and his name & fame might have spread far & wide. But, if he is not an expert in knowing the innumerable ways in which his own mind & senses work, if he is not sufficiently armed to wage relentless warfare against the devious nature of his own mind & memory, he is sure to fall again and again, if not openly, atleast at the thought level! And, when he keeps on falling in his own mind for a sufficient period of time, one fine day, he will fall from the ideal openly too! Therefore, o monk, beware! Be on guard! Be alert! The ochre-cloth signifies monasticism. So monks keep on colouring their clothes and ensure that it remains burning bright. But, it is not the colour of the cloth that determines the dispassion of a monk. If the mind is not coloured with devotion to God, the monk will certainly fall from his ideal, one way or the other. Therefore, o monk, beware! Be on guard! Be alert! Eros, the god of Lust, is extremely powerful. His Sanskrit name, Manmatha, itself signifies his prowess. It is made of two words – Man & Manthana; it means – one who completely churns the mind and throws him hopelessly off balance! There have been great ascetics in the past, who, despite their intense austerities, were easily entrapped by Manmatha and made to dance helplessly to his depraved sensuous tunes. When such has been the case, how can modern-day monks, with their careless, undisciplined lives, totally devoid of the Page 6 of 8
protecting force of Tapas, giving to ease and luxury, ever hope to remain true to the highest ideal of monasticism?! Therefore, o monk, beware! Be on guard! Be alert! It has been found out long ago that the human mind is totally restless. Its very nature is restlessness. Therefore, it has been compared variously to a monkey, to an unbroken horse, to an elephant in rut, etc. These are unchallenged opinions. Can one hope to control a mad elephant in rut by means of easy methods? Doesn’t one need an experienced mahout [elephant trainer] armed with a sharp instrument to work for a long time on that elephant and bring it under control? Similarly, without the controlling factor of the strictest spiritual austerities, how can we ever dream of staying true to the highest ideal of monasticism?! Therefore, o monk, beware! Be on guard! Be alert! Once, a certain King raised a question. He asked ‘Who is the greatest monk?’ Many, including his brilliant courtiers, attempted to answer his question. One day, an old woman brought a box, and placing it in the King’s hand, said, ‘O King, here is the answer you seek’. The King opened the box. There was another box inside. He opened that too. There was yet another box. It was like those famous Russian dolls. Thus the King opened box after box and finally came to an extremely small box, opening which he found a pinch of ash inside. What did this mean? The King’s intelligent mind understood. Until a monk’s body is burned and turned to ashes, one cannot truly judge his character! Sri Ramakrishna used to say: ‘Salute a monk when you see him. But if you wish to accept a monk as your spiritual guide, observe him by day and by night.’ A Sanskrit Subhashitha says: ‘Vishwamitra, Parashara and others practised the severest austerities, and lived only on air, water and insipid roots for food. But even such great ascetics got hopelessly infatuated when they saw the faces of women! Today we find people who live in ease, binge on the choicest savouries from time to time, freely consume milk, ghee & honey, and yet attempt to control their senses, and cross the ocean of life & death! The chances of their success are the same as the chances of the Vindhya Mountains uprooting itself and walking across the Indian Ocean!’ Sarvajna, the great mystic-poet, says: ‘Without punishing the body, without quelling your passions, wishing to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, are you? Do you think the Kingdom of Heaven is governed by a Broad?’ Yet another Sanskrit Subhashitha puts it very humorously: ‘Knowing from my knowledge of Grammar that Mind is a neuter [by gender], I sent it to keep company with my beloved one. I knew that being a neuter gender, proximity with my beloved would not affect my mind. But its sensuousness was aroused to a feverish pitch in her amorous company and it refused to come back to me! Alas! This Grammarian Panini and his stupid Rules of Grammar have been the death of me!!’ True. According to the Rules of Grammar, mind indeed belongs to the neuter gender. But, in a male body, it assumes a male identity and in a female body, a female identity. Not everyone realise this subtle truth very easily! Page 7 of 8
So, if we lose touch with reality, a fall from the monastic ideal is inevitable! A monk’s entire attention must be on his own inner divinity. Then he has no fear of a fall. Or, when his attention is drawn outwards, it must rest to a large extent on the saffron-coloured robe with which he covers his body. This fire-coloured ochre robe is meant to do exactly that. It reminds the monk of his vows of renunciation and draws his attention to the Truth that is indwelling in him. Thus, again, he can avoid a fall. Now, instead of either of these, keeping his mind neither on his own inner divine reality, nor on the ochre-cloth covering his body, if his attention gravitates on to the body that lies in-between both, then his fall from the monastic ideal is certain! ********************* Note: This is a translation of the small booklet ‘Samsari-Sannyasi’ written in Kannada by Swami Purushottamananda. Although this booklet deals with a general and very important topic, it was written to educate the people of Karnataka about the great ideal of monasticism when a popular monk [he had gained immense popularity since he was a wonderful singer] of a Vaishnava Order in Karnataka openly declared that he was renouncing his monastic vocation and was getting married. This incident had created a furore in the public mind. It was in response to this particular incident that this booklet was published sometime in the later 90’s.
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